The idea of utilitarianism came from a British philosopher named Jeremy Bentham. One of his students was John Stewart Mill. John S. Mill then studied his mentor’s (Bentham) work and published a novel called Utilitarianism. Mill had some very interesting things to say in Utilitarianism that people to this day are still conversing about. Mill goes into great detail about utilitarianism and its meaning. It is important to fully understand Mill’s teaching in Utilitarianism and understanding what prudential personalism is assists with this. Mill’s studies are very knowledgeable, but it is very important to fully understand his writings on utilitarianism and prudential personalism.
Utilitarianism is based on the notion of whenever someone is faced with a decision to make the choice that is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In the sense, this sounds like a good idea because the greatest number of people are happy, but what about the rest of the people? They still pay taxes, and do their job in society, but based on a notion that they are not part of the majority then they should be wronged? This is one of the main flaws of utilitarianism, also known as consequentialism. How could someone know the consequences of their action; that they are hurting people and still precede? Even though it is not the majority of people, there are still human beings out there not getting the same treatment as others because they have different opinion. What does Mill say to these people? What will he tell the families that work just as hard as everyone else, but get mistreated? Mill has no answer for these people. With Utilitarianism you start by crunching numbers and you end by crunching people1. An example of what type of decision a person who believes in utilitarianism is a child stuck in the fallopian tube in the early stages of a mother’s pregnancy, also known as an ectopic pregnancy. The mother has two options. The first option is there is a surgery that releases the pressure of the fallopian tube in order to try and the save the baby, but in the process the fallopian tube gets damaged and the embryo does not survive as a side effect. It could survive but there is simply not the technology available today that would make that possible. The second option is there is a pill that the mother can take which basically flushes the embryo of the fallopian tube and the embryo dies. The person who followed utilitarianism would choose the second option and take the pill because the greatest number of people would be in favor, because the mother’s fallopian tube would remain un-harmed, but in taking the pill, the child is murdered. The child does die in the surgery but it is a side effect of the surgery. With the surgery there is a chance in the future that child could be saved, and with the pill the child will be murdered each and every time, and with the surgery the mother is trying anything she can do to save her child.2 This is a great example of what utilitarianism really is and how it start by crunching numbers and ends by crunching people.3
In Utilitarianism, Mill acknowledges the different qualities associated with pleasure, higher and lower pleasures. Higher pleasures are those associated with intellect, such as reading, philosophy, and opera. Mill regarded these higher pleasures as higher pleasures because they were more time worthy. Lower pleasures were those associated with the body, such as: eating, drinking, and sex. Mill talks about these pleasure when he says, “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”4 This quote from Mill shows his beliefs of higher and lower quality pleasures, and how it is better to be noble and less pleasurable than a pig pleasured. Mill also says this about pleasures and pains, “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals